Crossword Puzzle Fun Facts

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.  I hope you all had a very joyous Christmas and a fun-filled New Year’s celebration.

Last year I took a break from writing western historicals to pen a contemporary short story. It is titled A Crossword Puzzle Christmas and is part of the Christmas Roses anthology.  As the title of the story hints, my heroine is a crossword puzzle enthusiast. Which got me to wondering about the origins of the crossword puzzle itself. So of course I immediately dug in and did some research on the subject and here are a few tidbits I found.

  • Crossword puzzles are a relatively new pastime. The first one was published on 12/21/1913 in the New York World newspaper. The creator of this first puzzle was a journalist by the name of Arthur Wynne who hailed from Liverpool.  You can see a reproduction of his original puzzle below.

  • Arthur came up with the idea for these puzzles when he was trying to think up a new kind of game for the newspaper’s Christmas edition. He adapted it from a popular children’s game called ‘word squares’, transforming it into something more challenging for an adult readership.
  • The original puzzle was well received, so much so that Arthur created new puzzles for the next two Sunday editions. In fact, when the New York World tried to drop the feature, readers complained so strenuously that the owners of the paper decided to make it a permanent part of the puzzle page.
  • Arthur Wynne originally dubbed his puzzle a Word-Cross puzzle. However, several weeks after the puzzles debut, typesetters accidentally transposed the title and printed it as Cross-Word.  For whatever reason, the name stuck.
  • Though readers loved the puzzles, newspaper editors had the opposite reaction. The puzzles were difficult to print and they were prone to typographical errors. It was such a problem that no other newspaper wanted anything to do with them. As a result, for the next decade the only newspaper to carry the popular crossword puzzle was the New York World.

  • Believe it or not, the crossword puzzle was responsible for launching publishing powerhouse Simon & Schuster. Popular lore has it that Richard Simon’s Aunt Wixie wondered aloud to him whether there was a book of these puzzles that she could purchase for her daughter. Simon, who was trying to break into publishing with his friend M. Lincoln Schuester, latched onto the idea as a way to kick start his business. The pair approached the New York World’s crossword puzzle editors and reached an agreement with them. For $25 each, they purchased the rights to publish the best puzzles in a book.  They then sunk all their money into printing The Cross Word Puzzle Book.  By year end they had sold more than 300,000 books and Simon & Schuester had become a major force in the publishing industry.
  • As you can see from the puzzle above, the grid was originally diamond shaped. It wasn’t until the 1920s that the puzzles began to take the block form we’re familiar with today.
  • It was also in the 1920s that crossword puzzles really took off in America. The puzzle craze inspired a Broadway plat titled Games of 1925 and a hit song called Crossword Mama, You Puzzle Me (don’t you just love it!).
  • Despite their 20th century origin, crossword puzzles are said to be the most popular and widespread of word games in the world today.

There you have it – a brief history of the Crossword Puzzle.

So which of these tidbits surprise you the most? And how do you feel about crossword puzzles –  do you love them? Hate them? Feel indifferent? Are there other types of puzzles you prefer?

And since this is my first post of the new year, I thought I’d celebrate by doing a giveaway.  Everyone who leaves a comment on today’s post before noon on Tuesday will be entered into a drawing – the winner will have their choice of any book in my backlist

 

 

Winnie Griggs
Winnie Griggs is the author of Historical (and occasionally Contemporary) romances that focus on Small Towns, Big Hearts, Amazing Grace. She is also a list maker, a lover of dragonflies and holds an advanced degree in the art of procrastination.
Three of Winnie’s books have been nominated for the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award, and one of those nominations resulted in a win.
Winnie loves to hear from readers. You can connect with her on facebook at www.facebook.com/WinnieGriggs.Author or email her at winnie@winniegriggs.com.
Updated: January 7, 2018 — 9:56 pm

53 Comments

  1. Never one to really get into crosswords. Not smart enough to know all that stuff. My thing is wordsearch puzzles. Even the ones you find backwards. Thanks for the hisory you shared.

    1. wordsearch puzzles are fun too! I enjoy them and my mom is absolutely addicted to them!

  2. Crossword puzzles aren’t really my thing but the history of them is pretty cool though. ? I love a plain old puzzle that I can spend an evening doing with my dad

    1. If by plain old puzzle you mean jigsaw puzzles I enjoy them as well. There’s something so centering about spending an afternoon working on one.

  3. Oh my gosh Winnie you are speaking my language today! I love either crosswords or fill-it-in puzzles so much!! I do the one in our local paper every night, as a matter of fact, I had to buy a crossword puzzle dictionary to help me with some of the more challenging clues 🙂 I also have so many memories of my grandma doing crossword puzzles, she had books of them all over the house. I didn’t start doing them until I was an adult, but those memories are precious.

    All of these are fascinating & I learned so much by this post. But the one that sticks out to me is that Simon & Schuester publishing was launched by the crossword puzzle! By year end it’s hard to believe that they sold over 300,000 books which made them (S&S) a major force in the publishing industry, wow!

    My son loves to do Sudoku, which I have never figured out…lol! My husband loves the word-find ones and I also love the word scramble ones. Lots to keep your mind working our there 🙂

    1. Hi Trixi. I enjoy a good crossword puzzle too but I don’t work on them as often as you do 🙂

      And yes, the information about Simon & Schuester stuck out to me as well – I never realized that’s how they got their start.

      I actually majored in mathematics in college so I love number puzzles but for some reason I nevercould get in to Sudoku

  4. Hello Winnie-,Very interesting blog, but never but InTo crossword puzzles. Happy New Year To you.

    1. Hi Tonya, thanks for stopping by.

  5. Hey Winnie, thank you for the fun post. I’ve never done a cross word puzzle.

    1. Hello Caryl, thanks for stopping by

  6. what neat information about the history of crossword puzzles! I enjoy working them and other types of puzzles in the airlines magazines when we are traveling or otherwise. I’m told that working these puzzles helps keep our minds sharp. My mother-in-law loved working crossword puzzles and her mind was sharp until she passed away at the age of 86.

    1. Good morning LaBertha. I always turn to the puzzle in the airline magazine when I’m flying as well. I count it a personal challenge to try to complete it before we touch down. 🙂

  7. I do word puzzles, just not crosswords.

    1. Hi Kim. I’m a fan of acrostics, word jumbles word searches and brain teasers as well.

  8. I didn’t know a lot about the origin of crosswords. I think the think that surprised me the most was the part bout Simon and Schuster. I enjoy doing crossword puzzles and also cryptogram puzzles. Our paper has one of each every morning and that is the first thing I do.

    1. A girl after my own heart! 🙂

  9. I love crossword puzzles. I used to do them all the time. The thing that surprised me most was that they launched Simon & Schuster.

    1. Hi Becky. Apparently the S&S tidbit is the most surprising for most folks. 🙂

  10. I like crossword puzzles but some are too hard for me. My favorite kind of puzzle is the Wonder Word puzzles. They are my favorite addiction. I have become a big fan of the puzzles and even had two puzzle suggestions published. I have even spoke with the creator David and his assistant Linda on the phone.

    1. Janine, how cool that you’ve had your puzzle suggestions! I’m not familiar with Wonder Word puzzles but will have to go look them up now

  11. I don’t do cross word puzzles. Why did they change from diamond shaped to a square? I do love Sudoku (but not enough to know how to spell it lol) and find a word puzzles.

    1. Hi Sally. Thanks for stopping by. I know crosswords are not everyone’s cup of tea, but it looks like you found some great alternatives.

  12. The Simon & Shuster was a big one for me. Such an interesting post. I love crossword puzzles and word search. Thank you for the interesting post.
    Carol Luciano

    1. Hi Carol. Glad you enjoyed the post!

  13. I never really ever got into crossword puzzles, I was more into the search puzzles or just give me a jigsaw puzzle and I would be good.

    1. Hello QuiltLady. I haven’t worked a jigsaw puzzle in a long time but used to really enjoy them. It was always sort of sad to finish one though, because I never knew what to do with it. 🙂

  14. Good morning Winnie. I enjoy working crossword puzzles and I appreciate all of the interesting facts about crosswords. I didn’t know their origin and the date and I’ve never seen a diamond shaped puzzle.
    Thank you & Blessings!
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

    1. Hi Connie – glad you enjoyed the post!

  15. Hi, Winnie, as a kid i would do crossword puzzles. and the one you had to circle the word in, until i found out the answers were in the back of the book, lol they are still good to do on a long train or car ride, I still like them….

    ON a different note: I won a contest from you back in September ,and picked the book ,gave you my address and all. and even messaged you a month later with all my information again, on the book i picked and my address , just wanted to let you know. I never got the book i won.

    1. Elaine, I’m so sorry that happened. Contact me via email at book @ winniegriggs .com (no spaces) and we’ll get it figured out

      1. Thank you winnie, i sent you an email. look forward to reading your books.

  16. I love the challenge of a cross word puzzle. It is interesting to find out how and when they came about.

    1. I know! Don’t you just love learning all the little whys and wherefores behind everyday things?

  17. What a hoot that ‘cross-word’ is actually a typo! 🙂 Thanks for a fun informative post, Winnie.

    1. You’re quite welcome Nancy – glad you enjoyed the post.

  18. Wow some truly interesting facts that I had no idea about… thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Colleen- you’re welcome. Glad you enjoyed the post.

  19. I enjoy crossword puzzles. As long as their basic and fairly easy, I’m not one that would qualify for Jeopardy, lol.
    Interesting history of crossword puzzles and how they went from being just in the newspaper to having books full of them.

    1. Hi Karen. One of the things I found most surprising, aside from the Simon and Schuster thing, was how recent the origin was. Before doing the research, I would have guessed it went back at least to Victorian times.

  20. Blessed 2018 Winnie. I didn’t know that crossword puzzles were originally diamond shaped. I enjoy doing them as well as word search puzzles.

    1. Hi Maryann. I thought the diamond shape was interesting. But it does seem a bit simplistic by today’s standards.

  21. This was such a fun post, Winnie! Just like you, I love word puzzles of all shapes and sizes! I am also a huge jigsaw puzzle fan (although that is another story! LOL) I really enjoyed learning about Simon and Schuster and how they got their start. It just takes a bit of vision, doesn’t it?

    A very blessed 2018 to you my sister filly!

    1. Hi Kathryn! I agree about the bit of vision. Not only was Simon in the right place at the right time, but he was savvy enough to both recognize and capitalize on it.

  22. Fascinating.

    I love crossword puzzles.

    1. Happy to find another crossword enthusiast and glad you enjoyed the post.

  23. Very interesting info, had never thought about how they got started and how through the years the different changes. I don’t cate for crossword puzzles, as I can never finish them. But I do like the word fill-in and number fill-in puzzles. And like to do number and word search puzzles.

    1. Hi Veda. Crosswords aren’t for everyone, but it sounds like you have your own puzzle niche.

  24. How interesting! My eighty-nine year old dad is an avid crossword enthusiast. He is never without one no matter where he is except church and the golf course.

    1. Wow, he IS avid. But how great is it that at 89 he still likes to do this.

  25. What a great post. Thank you. I had no idea how crosswords came about; all of it was new to me. I love puzzles and have spent most of my life doing crosswords from the NYT (since high school when our English class was very competitive!) and jigsaw puzzles–that is until we got a cat who loves using her paw to see the puzzle pieces drop to the floor one at a time. Now for the past few years I’ve mainly been doing sudoku puzzles–strange for an English major but crosswords became pretty much the same to me while sudoku is somewhat like a jigsaw puzzle, only with numbers instead of pictures.

    1. Hi Eliza. That’s so funny about your cat:) And I know a lot of people who are really into Sudoko – maybe I should give it another try.

  26. My husband enjoys doing CrossWord puzzles. My dad was a big fan. I have done them a bit but enjoy Soduko more. We enjoy Scrabble, so I guess I should enjoy doing CrossWords more.
    It was interesting to hear how they got started and how instantly popular they became. That a publishing powerhouse like Simon & Schuester can thank CrossWords for a jump start to their success shows how important little things can be.

    1. Another Soduko enthusiast! I really do need to give those puzzles another try.

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